I am a philosopher whose research concerns what we have evidence to believe and what we have the right to believe, especially in the domains of science and religion.

Philosophy of Science


Scientific antirealists contend that we should not believe what today's best scientific theories tell us about things we cannot observe with our unaided senses (for example, quarks, genes, electrons). We should believe, at best, that these theories will make accurate predictions about what we will observe under certain conditions (for example, that the output of particle accelerators will match what our theory about quarks predicts). Scientific antirealists are often motivated by failures in the history of science: failures to make correct predictions (for example, Newton was wrong about Mercury) and failures even to conceive of plausible alternatives to our best theories. I have resisted historical arguments for scientific antirealism (here and here). Yet I remain open to the permissibility of antirealist attitudes towards science. I am currently investigating the potential utility of realist and antirealist attitudes towards science.


Philosophy of Religion


The rationality of religious belief is challenged by the existence of intelligent people who claim that the evidence supports a different, incompatible religion or no religion at all. We typically become less confident when our beliefs are inconsistent with those of well-informed people whom we respect. Why should we not do so with religious belief? This is the problem of religious disagreement.


One response to the problem of religious disagreement is religious pluralism, which denies that different religions are incompatible. Religious exclusivism rejects religious pluralism, claiming that exactly one religion is correct. I have recently published a survey article reviewing the advantages and challenges of different varieties of religious pluralism. In this article, I argue that religious exclusivists -- who often critique pluralists on the ground that they are committed to inconsistent beliefs -- must themselves explain how different, apparently inconsistent denominations can be correct.


Not to be unfair, in another article, I defend religious exclusivism against pluralist critiques based on the problem of religious disagreement. As in the philosophy of science, I am attracted to epistemic permissivism, the idea that there is a range of permissible beliefs in some domains. I suggest that both religious pluralism and religious exclusivism can be appropriate responses to religious disagreement.


The rationality of belief in God is also challenged by the degree and distribution of evil in the world. This is the problem of evil. (Following Peter van Inwagen, by "evil," I just mean 'bad things', 'things we could change if we could'.) I am currently working on a project which contends that the larger the population of the universe, the more formidable the problem of evil.




Traditional epistemology uses a three-valued logic: we can believe that a claim is true or that it is false, or we can be agnostic. Probabilistic, or Bayesian, epistemology, uses a continuum-valued logic: our beliefs can be represented as probability assignments (or sets thereof) in the range [0, 1]. I endorse probabilistic epistemology because we clearly do have different levels of credence in different claims. An adequate epistemology should represent this.


Probabilistic epistemology raises a number of intriguing questions about constraints on rational belief. Some of these questions relate to everyday occurrences such as discovering that a well-informed intelligent person disagrees with you, as in the case of religious disagreement above. Others relate to fanciful circumstances such as those described in the Sleeping Beauty Problem and the Cable Guy Paradox. I have investigated both everyday and fanciful varieties of these questions. With Brian Kierland and Bradley Monton, I have defended a solution to the Cable Guy paradox and argued that Bas van Fraassen's Reflection Principles should quantify over future times. In addition, I have a manuscript which seeks to make a contribution to the debate about peer disagreement.


Philosophy of Science

Scientific Realism / Antirealism Debates

Historical Arguments for Scientific Antirealism

The Nature and Coherence of Antirealist Attitudes

Philosophy of Religion

Arguments from Evil

Religious Pluralism

Religious Disagreement


Probabilistic (Bayesian) Epistemology

Reflection Principle

Copernican Principle

Peer Disagreement